'Big Four' evolves to Novak and 'Next 4' - UBITENNIS
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‘Big Four’ evolves to Novak and ‘Next 4’

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TENNIS – There no longer appears to be a “Big Four” of men’s tennis. It’s more like the “King and the Next Four” now that the first Grand Slam of the year is history. Obviously, Novak Djokovic is the best player in the game at the moment. Of course, that could change in a one-month span in early summer. By James Beck

There no longer appears to be a “Big Four” of men’s tennis.

It’s more like the “King and the Next Four” now that the first Grand Slam of the year is history.

Obviously, Novak Djokovic is the best player in the game at the moment. Of course, that could change in a one-month span in early summer.

Murray And Nadal Almost Back

The most significant occurrences in this Australian Open other than Djokovic’s march to his fifth title Down Under and fourth in the last five years, and Roger Federer’s early departure, were the reemmergences of Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal at the top of their games, if only for a couple of matches in Nadal’s case.

Neither Nadal or Murray won the tournament, and both suffered embarrassing 6-0 setbacks, but it was the flashes of brillance that both demonstrated in their defeats that impressed me. Those efforts make me believe that both Nadal and Murray are near full recovery to their former levels of play, prior to Murray’s back surgery two years ago and Nadal’s recent long layoff due to injury and health issues.

Murray was superb for much of his long four-set final against Djokovic. The Scotsman just needs to develop his game so he can sustain consistency when he goes for winners. He committed too many errors on what should have been winners to open courts against Djokovic. Novak was able to out-defense Murray, and come up with the big groundstroke more consistently than Murray.

Novak Will Be Difficult To Catch

Djokovic is at a place where it will be difficult for anyone to catch him. But Nadal and Murray might be the best bests to accomplish that task. And don’t forget Stan Wawrinska, possibly the most dangerous player in the game. When Wawrinska is on, he is probably more dominant and dangerous than anyone in the game, including Djokovic.

Federer still has some big moments left in his career, although they may not include another Grand Slam title. Right now, I see Federer as the fifth-best player in the game, the last member of the “Next Four.”

Tomas Berdych may have dominated Nadal much of their quarterfinal, but the vanilla-like play of Berdych may never earn a Grand Slam title. He’s not in the class of the “Next Four” or Djokovic as an athlete, although he occasionally may sneak up on one of them with his big strokes and serve.

No Update On Nadal’s Status

No word has come out about another Nadal injury, and it may not, but Nadal obviously wasn’t his self in his straight-set loss to Berdych. Something was wrong. It was surprising that the TV analysts did not pick up on anything being wrong with Nadal until late in the match when Nadal appeared to be near the top of his game at times. The analysts were too busy heaping praise on Berdych’s play to notice that Nadal wasn’t energized in his normal style of play.

Berdych did look awesome at times against Nadal, but when an opponent doesn’t even attempt to run down shots that he normally would get to, something usually is wrong with the player when the player in question is Nadal. The Spanish great looked like he wanted to be anywhere other than Rod Laver Arena on the night Berdych broke his long losing streak to Nadal.

Of course, Berdych resorted back to his true form in the semifinals against Murray. Berdych just doesn’t seem to have the tenacity, intensity and focus to reach true elite status in the sport.

James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

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Simona Halep Provides Injury Update On Knee Ahead Of US Open

The return of Simona Halep looks a long way away from happening as a knee injury continues to bother the Romanian.

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Simona Halep has provided an update on her knee injury as she faces a race against time to be fit for the US Open.

The former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion’s comeback has not gone according to plan so far as she returned from a doping ban in Miami earlier this year.

However playing time has been limited for the Romanian as her second tournament of the year ended in a first round retirement at a Challenger event in Paris.

As a result of her retirement Halep was forced to miss Roland Garros and Wimbledon as she looked to recover from a knee injury.

The injury is more serious than meets the eye though as Halep provided an update on her knee injury and revealed it’s an injury that has been occurring for the last few months, “I wanted to provide a little health update since I have been away from the court lately. It is not the best news, but I wanted to share all the same,” Halep revealed on Instagram.

“For a few months now, I have been struggling with a knee injury. It’s an injury I have never had before and it has been a tough one to manage, with the pain persisting. It has been a very difficult period (almost two years) mentally and emotionally for me and struggling physically on top of that definitely doesn’t help.

“I have decided to take the time needed to recover properly, rather than training and playing through pain. My instinct has always been to try to come back as soon as possible, but I am not a machine, I am a human being and I need time to recover from everything I have gone through.

“I’ll keep you posted and, as always, want to thank you for your permanent support. I hope to be back on court very soon.”

Halep now faces a race against time to be fit for the US Open which starts on the 26th of August.

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Alexander Zverev Commits To Olympics, Speaks About Miscommunication Between Olympics And ATP

Alexander Zverev is preparing for his Olympic title defence.

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Alexander Zverev has spoken out on the miscommunication between the Olympics and the ATP tour with tennis’ top stars set to miss some big events on the tour.

The German is getting ready to defend his Olympic title that he won in Tokyo as Zverev heads to Paris.

After narrowly missing out on Roland Garros glory, Zverev now has an opportunity at redemption as he aims for a second consecutive gold medal at the Olympics.

However there is a dilemma for big players this year as the same week as the tennis event at the Olympics at the ATP 500 event in Washington.

This is an event that Zverev usually plays but will have to miss it due to playing in Paris.

Speaking out on the miscommunication, Zverev said it’s no secret that the ATP are not best friends on the Olympics but has committed to the historic event, “The ITF or the Olympics are not best friends with the ATP, that’s not a secret,” Zverev was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.

Everybody continues their own tour. Yes, the Olympics is one of the, if not the, most important events we have in sports. So, the best players in the world are always going to play the Olympics over anything else, over points and over prize money.

All the top players went to Wimbledon a few years back, despite having no points on the line. It’s about prestige, it’s not about points or money. It’s about winning these kinds of titles and having medals for your country.

That’s what it’s about. I would never choose to play a 500 event over the Olympics. There are no thoughts on that, and I think Washington is going to be quite an interesting 500 event, I would say.

The ATP 500 event in Washington will be headlined by Grigor Dimitrov, Ben Shelton, Karen Khachanov and Frances Tiafoe as they are among those that have chosen ranking points over the Olympic experience.

As for Zverev he is continuing his Olympic preparations in Hamburg where he will face Pedro Martinez in the semi-finals.

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Rafael Nadal Reveals Delight At Setting Up Ajdukovic Semi-Final After Four Hour Victory

Rafael Nadal has revealed his delight at reaching the Bastad semi-finals after a four hour victory over Mariano Navone.

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Rafael Nadal has revealed his delight at reaching the semi-finals in Bastad after a four hour victory over Mariano Navone.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion prevailed in a marathon 6-7(2) 7-5 7-5 victory to reach his first semi-final since Wimbledon 2022.

The Spaniard converted ten of his 21 break point opportunities as he reached the semi-finals.

After the match Nadal revealed his delight at reaching the last four and prevailed Navone for his resilient display, “I lost for some moments my concentration, but I was able to hold physically until the end,” Nadal told the ATP website.

“That is so important for me. Let’s see how I am tomorrow, but today I am alive and in the semi-finals, so that’s very important. There were a lot of changing dynamics in every single set. For moments, he was in control. For moments, I was in control. But at the end, no one was in control! That’s true, and I had a good chance in the second with 3-0. Then I was very close to losing the match in the second set.

“In the third [I was ahead] again with 5-2, but he’s a great fighter and he played a great match. I wish him all the very best for the rest of the season.”

Nadal will now play Duje Ajdukovic in the semi-finals as he aims to continue his eight match winning streak in Bastad with this being his first appearance at the tournament since winning the title in 2005.

The other semi-final will be Nuno Borges against Thiago Agustin Tirante with both players reaching their maiden ATP tour semi-final.

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